BlogMembership 8 Simple Tips to Improve Your Membership Renewal Letters and Emails Membership 8 Simple Tips to Improve Your Membership Renewal Letters and Emails Author: Tatiana Morand June 4, 2020 Contents 🕑 8 min read As you prepare for this year’s membership renewal campaign, be sure to take the time to review and update your renewal letter or email. For many organizations, this is the key tool in your renewal toolbox. After all, unlike your newsletters or website, your renewal letter or email offers an opportunity to speak directly to your member. And since retaining members and keeping them active and engaged is critical — it might just be the most important communications piece you’ll send this year! Wondering how to send out membership renewals during COVID-19? Fill out the form below to get a template to help you out: COVID-19 Membership Renewal Letter Template for Associations, Nonprofits & Clubs Download Now 1. Write a Powerful Member Renewal Letter Your renewal letter or email needs to speak to each member and make them feel they have a personal connection to and an integral part of an important organization. It should be a powerful message that reminds and reinforces the value your organization brings to their personal and/or professional life. It also needs to acknowledge both the organization’s commitment to the member and the importance of his/her support — from the moment they filled out your membership application form onwards. One way to ensure you are offering up a personal touch is to step back and think about what you’d want to hear if you were a member. You could also consider involving members in the renewal letter process. Why not talk to your board, membership or communications chairs — perhaps they have some thoughts you can incorporate? To make it even more personal, you might even want to have the letter or email come directly from one of these volunteers. 2. Get Members to Renew on Their Own Want to make your life a little easier? Why not get members to renew automatically? The top membership organizations get their members to renew on their own by setting up recurring dues. Recurring dues is a process that automatically charges a members’ credit card at the end of each period. A member just needs to be set up once, and that’s it. There are many advantages of setting up recurring dues, including: Time and money saved from processing dues yourself. An increase in cash flow from members’ accounts being charged automatically the second a due is due (no late dues). Since you won’t have to nag your members about late dues, you can save your communication with them for when it counts. The easiest way to set up recurring dues is to use a membership management system, which is designed to automate all the admin tasks for a membership manager (like dues, website updates, newsletter design, event registrations, database updates, and more). If you’re looking for a great membership management system to use for your organization, WildApricot is the number one rated system used by over 20,000 membership organizations across the world. The best part is that WildApricot has a free 60 day trial for anyone looking to use it. You can get your free trial here. “As our club grew from the 60’s to in excess of 150 members and the need to collect dues and establish membership categories arose, it became very hard to manage everything with the paper system we had been using. WildApricot solved all that perfectly.” – Fred Finney, Vistoso Cyclists 3. Do This in Your Message for Added Impact If you’re using a membership management platform, you’ll be able to use your membership data to personalize renewal emails or letters. Start the process by thinking about what sets your members apart – for example: Do you have a number of membership levels or categories? (e.g., student, active member, retired, affiliate, etc.) Do you segment your list based on membership status? (new member, active member; long-standing member, inactive/ lapsed member, former/returning member) Do you capture engagement data? (e.g., volunteer activity; attendance at events or professional development sessions; involvement in committees or task forces; etc.) The more you know about your members, the more you can personalize the letter or email to speak directly to them. (And if you don’t know which of your members fall into these segments… it’s time to start asking and tracking!) For example, if you know that a group of members have been active on your advocacy committee or interested in an initiative, you might want to highlight the association’s success over the past year and thank and acknowledge their contributions that made this possible in their renewal letter. This letter from Forterra (formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy) highlights initiatives that this donor’s support has made possible throughout the year and explains exactly which initiatives their membership renewal can support in the year to come. Alternately, if you have a student membership category, you might want to highlight specific member benefits that this group finds most beneficial (e.g., such as professional development or networking events). You might also want to consider creating separate letters or emails based on membership status, for example: a powerful “we miss you” message (maybe from the Board Chair?) for lapsed members a personal “couldn’t do it without you” note for long-standing members a welcoming note for new members renewing for the first time a “welcome back” note for former/returning members If you are struggling to find the best way to address a specific segment, try reaching out to a member or a volunteer who represents that group and get his/her feedback and insight. Note for WildApricot users: you can customize your automated renewal emails and create different versions to suit membership segments, categories or levels. 4. Make Sure the Salutation Isn’t a Show Stopper Remember that famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire: “you had me at hello”? Well, your first two words – “Dear xxx” can have a huge impact on whether your letter or email are read or taken seriously. If you fumble the salutation, your member may never get to your wonderful prose about how important he/she is or the amazing work your organization has accomplished over the last year. So, here are a few tips on getting the hello or welcome right: Never say “dear member” — it needs to be personal Dear [first name] – is probably best, but ensure your database has correct first names for all members so you don’t end up with a “Dear blank” or worse, “Dear first name”! Avoid using Ms., Mr., or Mrs. since any glitch in your database can be the “kiss of death” when a staffer or the system gets the member’s gender wrong! Mistakes like those certainly suggest you don’t know this member. Want more tips like this? Before you lick that envelope or hit the send button, check out our Membership Renewal Letter Checklist. 5. Show Them the Benefits Receiving your renewal letter or email may have your members thinking about another line from the Jerry Maguire movie: “Show me the money!”. When they receive your yearly renewal letter, email or invoice, they’re automatically thinking, “What has my association/club done for me lately?” They’ll be thinking about the value of membership and the benefits you’ve provided, in terms of the value that’s being added to their businesses and/or lives. So, when crafting your renewal communications messages, take care to be sure they resonate with your members — and shows them the benefits of belonging. For example, this table from the PMI Kansas City Mid America highlights the differences between being a member and a non-member. To present this effectively in their renewal letter, they could look at which benefits a member has taken advantage of and point out how much money they’ve saved throughout the year. Another benefit that most organizations provide and that’s easy to highlight: the chance to be part of a community. Simply reminding members of the emotional and professional connections they can form throughout your organization can often be more valuable than a simple list of discounts. For example, if your organization has a member directory, you can point it out. If not, you could potentially ask members how they’ve benefitted from having the chance to network with other members — Have they gotten new business contacts? Have they learnt something new? — and then highlight those testimonials in your letters and website to encourage renewals. In sum: your overview of your benefits doesn’t have to be long-winded, but it does need to be relevant and outcomes-focused. If you’ve done some thinking about customizing to suit your audience, it can be a brief, bullet-point list that speaks directly to the member. 6. Make Your Ask Urgent and Honest Yes, this is a renewal letter or email… but you don’t want to jump right in and ask them to renew in the first line since that can come off as aggressive and make it look like you’re only in it for the money. However, once you’ve made a welcoming start, and reminded your member about the benefits of belonging, then you need to “make the ask”. Of course, even if they have scanned through your email or letter, your member is waiting for “the pitch”. So make it urgent and honest — ask them to renew their membership today. It should also include the ways in which they can do this quickly and easily, whether it’s via cheque or online. If you’re sending an email, you can even include the link to your member portal so that they can click through immediately. 7. This Reminder is De Rigueur We’re talking renewal letters and emails here, but your organization may think about renewals in terms of “renewal notices”, “renewal reminders” or even “renewal invoices”. No matter how your process or membership management systems work, you should take the opportunity at renewal time to reach out to all of your members with a personalized message. If your organization is using online membership management software, many of your members might have taken advantage of signing up to have membership fees automatically paid on a regular (yearly, quarterly, monthly) basis. But even though technology can save enormous time and effort with renewal administration, if members are paying through your membership management system’s recurring payments processes, it’s still important to take the opportunity to connect with members. After all, it’s a courtesy to notify them that their membership renewal is coming up and that their credit card will be charged. It’s also an opportunity to re-connect with them on a personal level as you are with your other members who are receiving the renewal letter or email. Read More: 5 Steps to Build a Membership Site (No Tech Experience Required) 8. Don’t Forget to Say This Your renewal letter or email offers an opportunity to outline the benefits of membership and acknowledge your member’s valued support. But it can also instill some excitement for the coming year – activities, programs or events made possible by their member dues or fees. Use your closing as the opportunity to offer a genuine note of thanks to the member. If you can, customize the closing to suit the member type or the profile of the member so that it is warm and personal – offering up that emotional connection and a sense of membership value that reminds them why they became involved with your organization in the first place. 9. A Membership Renewal Letter Sample to Follow Looking for a membership renewal letter that you can use that implements all of these suggestions? Well, look no further: here’s a template for you! 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